In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at several thoughts about the postseason from a Maple Leafs point of view. First, I’ll expand on the thoughts of one of THW’s readers about Mitch Marner and his postseason impact.
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Second, I’ll take a look at the success of the Florida Panthers during the postseason to assess what has made them so successful. Third, I’ll write a bit of a revision to a point I made on May 26 about where I think Luke Schenn might end up. He might be leaning toward Toronto, but seems to still be considering the Vancouver Canucks.
Finally, I’ll share one of the flies in the ointment for me about former Calgary Flames’ general manager (GM) Brad Treliving. We do not (or did not a couple of seasons ago) share the same values about what makes a good coach.
Item One: Does Size Explain Marner’s Drop in Postseason Scoring?
In the discussion section of a recent post, regular commenter Andrew shared his insights about postseason scoring among the youngest three members of the team’s Core Four. He noted that, when comparing postseason scoring to regular-season scoring, William Nylander has a playoff points percentage of 103%, indicating that he performs slightly better in the playoffs when compared to the regular season.
On the other hand, both Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews experience a drop-off in their postseason scoring. Marner has a playoff points percentage of 70% and Matthews has a playoff points percentage of 69%. These numbers suggest that neither Marner nor Matthews perform quite as well during the playoffs compared to the regular season.
Two things. First, it’s interesting to note that Nylander’s improvement in the playoffs contradicts any notion that he underperforms when it matters most. Andrew’s note suggests the importance of looking at individual players’ performances in both contexts and not relying on preconceived ideas. Nylander seems to respond well to the pressures and demands of playoff hockey.
Second, Marner is smaller than the other two and I wonder how that impacts his playoff performance. Matthews is 6-foot-3 and weighs 208 pounds. He’s as big or bigger than the average centre in terms of size. Nylander is bigger than I had thought. He’s 6-foot-0 and weighs 204 pounds. That’s a respectable size for a right-winger. He’s only four pounds lighter than Matthews.
However, Marner is smaller. He’s listed at 5-foot-11 and 181 pounds. That’s a full 23 pounds less bulk than Nylander carries around. Does that smaller size, combined with the rigours of the playoffs, put more wear and tear on him compared to other right-wingers?
Obviously, size is not the only determinant of success. But, it might be a factor to consider when assessing a player’s overall impact.
Item Two: Why the Panthers Have Been Successful This Postseason
I have been surprised at the success of the Panthers this postseason. However, perhaps less surprised than those fans who, after the Maple Leafs Round 1 series win, kept screaming “We want Florida!”
In looking at the Panthers’ success, my first thought is the memory of Paul Maurice having a public meltdown during one of his team’s final games of the season against the Maple Leafs. You gotta wonder if that had a galvanizing impact on the team.
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More logically, when looking at the Panthers’ postseason success, it might be attributed to several factors. First, unlike the Maple Leafs, the Panthers have shown that a team can succeed without relying heavily on star players. Their offence is more balanced and collective.
Second, the Panthers are ruthless and determined. They didn’t play better than the Maple Leafs – nor have they played better than any of the other teams they’ve beaten – except in two areas. They don’t miss many chances to capitalize on the opportunities they are given and they exploit an opponent’s weaknesses.
Third, the Panthers consistently come at you. They seem to never blink. They just keep coming. They’ve maintained a competitive level of play throughout the playoffs.
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Fourth, the Panthers have Sergei Bobrovsky. His strong goaltending has not only provided stability but it has inspired confidence among the troops. From what I’ve seen and read, the Panthers’ balanced approach, ruthless play, consistency, and strong goaltending are the key reasons they are heading to the Stanley Cup Final.
Item Three: Luke Schenn Apparently Wants to Play in Toronto
In Friday’s (May 26) News & Rumors, I had reported that – given what I’d heard during an interview with Schenn – I thought he might be leaning toward returning to the Canucks. It seems I might have inferred incorrectly. Or, perhaps it’s a back-and-forth sort of thing.
In reading Lance Hornby’s article in the Toronto Sun, I got a different read on Schenn’s desire to stick with the Maple Leafs. Hornby’s sense was that similar to many Maple Leafs’ unrestricted free agents (UFAs), Schenn is caught in the middle of the team’s management turmoil and is waiting for the team’s front office unrest to settle (from “Like many Leaf UFAs, Luke Schenn waits for front office unrest to settle,” Lance Hornby, Toronto Sun, 26/05/2023).
It seems that, for Schenn, the sudden search for a new general manager (GM) has made contract negotiations tricky. And, he’s not alone. The team’s other UFAs include Ryan O’Reilly, Alex Kerfoot, Michael Bunting, David Kampf, Noel Acciari, and Zach Aston-Reese. Hornby, like many of the rest of us, would love to see Schenn re-signed.
Schenn was physical and effective during the playoffs and helped Morgan Rielly play some of the best hockey of his career. He would seem to be a priority for this team. Maple Leafs’ president Brendan Shanahan has assistant GM Brandon Pridham discussing contract terms with the players and their representatives, but no news.
In Hornby’s article, Schenn expressed hope for progress in the negotiations and mentioned his positive experience playing for the team and being partnered with Rielly. That said, the possibility of signing with the Canucks, where he played last season, seems to be on his mind.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
The search for a new Maple Leafs’ GM is ongoing. There’s been a lot of news about Treliving being a potential candidate. The idea has been growing on me as I read more about him as a GM.
That is, except for one thing. My sometimes co-author for THW Stan Smith wrote me a note suggesting that Treliving’s choice of Darryl Sutter as the Flames’ saviour as a coach was not to his taste. It apparently wasn’t to the taste of the Flames’ players either and now Sutter is gone.
I know that many hockey fans believe that the players have too much power and should not run the show. While that might have been true in Punch Imlach’s days, it’s no longer true today. I would guess that the best relationship between a coach and his players is more collaborative.
Like it or not, the days of hierarchical leadership are over.